Six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan loved the movies, but The Dark Knight Rises would be the last film she would ever see. She is the youngest victim of the Aurora mass shooting in Colorado. Veronica died on the operating table.
Veronica's mother Ashley Moser, drifted in and out of consciousness in the ICU, bullets from the same gunman lodged in her throat and abdomen. She remains in critical condition at Aurora Medical Center, drifting in and out of consciousness.
Ashley cried out for her daughter but no one had the heart to tell her that Veronica was already dead.
"Nobody can tell her about it," Annie Dalton said of her niece, Ashley. "She's in critical condition, but all she's asking about is her daughter." Ashley was finally informed on Sunday that Veronica had been shot and killed in the shooting. One nurse reported said she thought the news was going to kill her (Ashley), that she attempted to "twist into a fetal position, her eyes were wild before she closed them tight. Her mouth was trying to scream. I couldn't stand to watch."
Her wounds would not allow a scream.
Veronica Moser-Sullivan will never know the excitement of high school, never experience a first kiss, graduating from college, her own kids, or simply sitting in the country on a star-filled night, contemplating unknown years ahead, of what could have been a long life on the good but troubled earth.
Veronica loved school, dressing up and was bragging to her family about the swimming lessons she had just begun, said her great-aunt Annie Dalton.
Veronica was "vibrant" and "excitable. "She was a wonderful 6-year-old girl — proud that she learned how to swim this summer," Dalton told Bloomberg News. "She loved to go to school, loved her grandpa who just passed away recently — that was hard for her."
"She loved to dress up and read and was doing well at school. She was beautiful and innocent," she told The Denver Post. "It's a nightmare right now."
Ashley Moser was recently accepted to medical school. Doctors have been unable to remove the bullet in her neck. She was expected to suffer some paralysis, though the extent was unclear.
Until recently, Ashley and her only child, Veronica, lived with her father, David Moser. They were a close family but just two months ago, Veronica's grandfather, David Moser, 65, died after a long battle with leukemia.
Her father's death crushed Veronica, said Moser's aunt, Annie Dalton. Her father's illness also drained family resources; left them all penniless when her father died.
Ashley and Veronica then moved in with an uncle, which is where they were living when they decided to go to the AMC Theater Century 16 in Aurora, Colorado.
Ashley did not have an easy life, her aunt said.
"Ashley struggled a lot," Dalton said.
However, Ashley was getting her life in order, had taken classes to enter a nursing program, wishing to earn a degree as a licensed practical nurse, the kind of nurse who cares for the sick, injured or disabled. Ashley had been accepted into a nursing program and was living off student loan money because she wasn't employed. Dalton said Veronica was a typical 6-year-old girl.
"She loved school, loved playing," she said. She had just started swimming lessons at a local recreation center, which she enjoyed. She was to start first grade in the fall.
Then came the early hours of Friday. On police radio, calls someone is heard saying: "We have a child down and cannot evacuate."
The gunman killed Veronica; Ashley caught a bullet to the neck. Dalton said she is paralyzed.
Dalton said that despite her niece's extensive injuries, Ashley's health appears to be improving. She is awake and talking now, Dalton said on Sunday.
For the family, this means more traumas, of course, but also mounting medical bills. Dalton said she believes that Ashley is on Medicaid, but money will be tight with additional bills and Veronica's funeral.
Veronica's father, Ian Sullivan, said of his daughter: "She is the last girl I will ever love."